City meets country in best of summer stock & community theatre at Opera House
By Mark Clairmont / TODAILY
GRAVENHURST — There’s new life in the Opera House.
And the plasma pulsing through her varicose veins is the blue blood of the boards.
With great guffaws and soaring Cs the old dame shook her booty when summer stock and community theatre shared centre stage for a fete to ‘80 years of Summer Theatre in Muskoka.’
With the ghosts of John Holden, Murray Davis, Actor’s Colony, The Straw Hat Players and Muskoka Festival taking deserving bows, Saturday evening’s “2014 Summer Season Soiree” was a wonderful, whimsical tribute to the past, present and future of show business at the Op.
You know you were in for a great performance from the opening street notes on the Heritage Square beforehand.
In a perfect segue, the local opening acts were arguably the best musical entertainment of the evening.
Party rating: ’4 outa 5′
FOG (Five Old Guys — from Muskoka) sang and played in perfect harmony, hits from the best of Broadway; while inside Gravenhurst guitar virtuoso Peter Wainwright channeled Segovia and Boyd like none north of the 407 can.
Inside the tastefully redecorated Trillium Court, local chefs offered better than usual fare for 90 minutes until curtain time and a star-studded review show hosted by actor and performer Marilyn Lightstone, directed by Greg Huchison and produced by Dave Campbell and Tim Webb.
Helping them and backing up the many performers were former Muskoka Festival musical directors David Warrack and Lona Davis on the grand and electric pianos respectively.
Former Nylons star Micah Barnes, who also sat down at the Steinway to sample his summer season show Stand By Me, was just one of more than two dozen entertainers who made for an enjoyable almost three hours of razzle dazzle and reminiscing about the good ol’ days and why There’s No Business Like Show Business.
Song and dance got its due with the Just For Kicks ensemble from Gravenhurst, who did a couple of spirited, high-kicking tap numbers.
But musicals weren’t the only stars — a scene from the first show up next week, Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, shows the heart of community theatre is still beating in Gravenhurst’s Dragonfly Theatre, the lone Muskoka dinner theatre company still active today.
But it was the guest stars of the night who stole the show.
Winnipeg-born Broadway actor, movie and TV actor and comedian Grant Cowan was the life of the pre-party, as the former Road to Avonlea (Harry Middleton) and King of Kensington star recalled the “magic, magic, magic of his start” in summer stock with Michael Ayoub and the Muskoka Festival.
Cowan sang a couple of songs, including a funny one by Charlie Chase, who he claimed once played the Opera House.
But it was Jane Miller, in her breezy pink polka-dotted summer dress who brought down the house, with a raucous and rollicking musical number that nearly verged into raunchy.
And the crowd loved it, like the cat-and-mouse exchange singer Mary Pitt had with Warrack.
Other notables recognized were Cedric Smith who will be appearing in August with Lightstone in Love Letters, and former Muskoka Festival alumnus Maja Ardal a playwright and performer. She was with the New Actor’s Colony Theatre last year in Bala, which returns to the Bala Curling Club for a couple more shows this summer, including Driving Miss Daisy with actor Pru Donaldson, of Gravenhurst.
So, it looks like it’s going to be another great season of theatre going ahead at the Opera House this summer, with a couple of other acts booked for August, thanks to “The Producers” Campbell and Webb, and new Opera House manager Krista Storey, who joined them onstage to sing the final “Muskoka” number and by Marta Proctor, Gravenhurst’s new arts and culture manager, who was there onhand with her husband, Mike.
Up first in July:
Dragonfly Theatre presents:
Noel Coward’s Hay Fever: July 9-19th
Dinner 6:30 pm | Show 8:00 pm
Performances on: Week 1: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Week 2: 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th
Dinner & Show: $60 | Show-only: $31 (regular)
Dinner & Show: $55 | Show-only: $26 (student)
David Bliss, a novelist and his
wife Judith, a retired actress are hoping for a quiet weekend in the country with some guests. Their dream is shattered when they discover that their high-spirited children – Simon and Sorel – have invited guests of their own. With such a full house, it is only a matter of time before things ignite, tempers flare and misunderstanding abound.
Judith’s new flame and David’s newest “literary inspiration” start to keep company. Simon and Sorel follow suit. Ultimately, the Bliss family lives up to its name as a “quiet weekend” comes to an exhausting and hilarious finale.
Stand By Me musical concert: July 23-26th
Four Evening shows (each night) – 8:00 pm
Matinee show Sat. July 26th – 2:00 pm
Tickets: $36 (regular) | $31 (student)
Former member of The Nylons Micah Barnes joins his pals, 3-time Juno-winner Billy Newton Davis, Gavin Hope and Tyrone Gabriel in a star-studded concert celebrating the classic ’60s and early ’70s hits of the BrillBuilding. Included are such hits as “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “On Broadway” and “Up on the Roof” from the Drifters, Carol King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” among many others!
“The power of these exceptional performers singing together in harmony on these classic songs brought a full house to their feet over and over. In fact, they got a standing ovation.
July 30-Aug. 9
Bobolink Productions presents:
Love Letters by A.R. Gurney
Evening Performances – 8:00 pm
Week 1: 30th, 31st, 1st, 2nd
Week 2: 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th
Afternoon Matinees – 2:00 pm
Week 1: 31st
Week 2: 6th, 7th
Tickets: $36 (regular) | $31 (student)
Two of Canada’s most illustrious stars of stage and screen are re-uniting for the first time since the classic television series The Road to Avonlea. Marilyn Lightstone, well-known as a popular host on Classical 96 FM, and Cedric Smith, who recently achieved acclaim as The Wizard in the hit production of The Wizard of Oz at Toronto’s Mirvish Theatre, will be featured in Love Letters, the most popular play by A. R. Gurney, one of the greatest contemporary playrights.
Cottage Country Comedy Festival
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